Exporters need urgent support to reap benefits of new trade deals

A new report out today from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shines a spotlight on the ongoing difficulties that small business exporters are facing from the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK’s exit from the EU.

The report, Ready to Launch, is calling on the Department for International Trade (DIT) to use its upcoming Export Strategy to supercharge the recovery by targeting support at small and micro businesses at a time when they need it most.

  • DIT should reform and replace the Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) with a new initiative modelled on the Canadian CanExport programme, providing more funding for more trade activities
  • Export support, including the advice of International Trade Advisors, should be targeted at the smallest business community, who lack the resources of medium and large firms
  • 80% of small firms left in the dark about the real benefits of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) – more must be done to promote the benefits of trade deals and ensure they are useable by small businesses

 Since the end of the transition period, around 25 per cent of small exporters have either temporarily or entirely stopped exporting to the EU, with a further 21 per cent making similar considerations.

Which is why new support to these firms is vital to getting small and micro businesses to return to or start their exporting journeys.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Mike Cherry, said: “Small exporters have had a difficult time due to the pandemic, ongoing supply chain issues, as well as adapting to the complications associated with the end of the transition period.

“This has left many facing rising costs, unsure of the future of their small firms and debating the best way to grow and nurture their businesses.

“Our report has highlighted some key areas which we hope DIT can act upon to positively help small firms who are either looking to begin their exporting journey, or to help current exporters to thrive.

“The inclusion of small business chapters in recent FTAs has been hugely welcome, and this must continue for all future agreements. But up to this point, we’ve found that fewer than a fifth of small firm exporters have made use of the preferential terms of access already available to them in FTAs.

“Rising costs, lack of resources and a simple lack of information about the advantages of these FTAs have left many in the dark or unable to reap the benefits of them. Which is why by offering more targeted support through Internal Trade Advisors and by working to promote these more, we should see an increased take up of small firms engaging with these preferential terms.

“By using the forthcoming Export Strategy to commit targeted support towards small and micro businesses, DIT can inject some much-needed energy into the exporters market. At the end of the day, the majority of businesses in the UK are small firms, and they are the backbone of our economy.

“It’s never been more important to ensure that small firms have the necessary support on hand to help them blossom, creating new opportunities for thousands of firms and contributing huge sums to the economy.”